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Local

Elburn family collects fleece fabric, blankets to keep kidney dialysis patients warm

Tara Johnsen's father underwent dialysis before receiving a kidney transplant

ELBURN – One of the worst parts of watching her father go through kidney dialysis for Elburn resident Tara Johnsen was seeing how cold he got during each four-hour treatment at Tri-Cities Dialysis at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital.

Her dad, Todd Johnsen of Elburn, underwent dialysis three times a week for about one year, and each time, he would huddle under a blanket to keep his body warm.

Now, almost one year since undergoing a successful kidney transplant, Todd and Tara Johnsen are hosting a blanket drive through early December to bring to each of the 70 patients at Tri-Cities Dialysis a blanket to keep them warm and comfortable during treatment.

"I've been thinking about doing this over the past few months, and last weekend, I decided it was time, so I posted it on Facebook," said Tara Johnsen, 21, a nursing student at Waubonsee Community College. "I also felt bad for my dad because he was so cold. The blood is taken out of your body, cleaned, and then returned to the body, but it's so cold from being in the machine. Having a blanket did help him."

Tara Johnsen is accepting fleece fabric that she can cut and tie the ends together to make a blanket, or hand-made blankets. She said she and her father both plan to distribute them in mid-December at Tri-Cities Dialysis. If they collect more than 70 blankets, they will donate them to other local dialysis centers, Tara Johnsen said.

"He's super excited (about handing out blankets) and is going to try to make a few," Tara Johnsen said. "It's just something we can do to give back because we're so grateful. It's also something nice to commemorate our transplant surgery. December is a significant month for us – it's when he got sick, when we had our transplants and then the holidays."

Tara and Todd Johnsen were involved in a "kidney swap" with the Shaw family of St. Charles. Tara Johnsen was a match for Sam Shaw, a St. Charles North High School student who was awaiting a kidney transplant, while Sam Shaw's father, Phill Shaw, was a match for Todd Johnsen. The double-transplant took place in early December 2018.

Tara Johnsen said that both she and her father are doing "very well" nearly one year later.

"My dad said to me the other day that he's so happy to be alive, and I'm doing well with only one kidney," she said. "My family was so lucky that we were able to get a transplant as fast as we could. He was only on dialysis for a year."

For information on how to donate fabric or a blanket, send an email to Tara Johnsen at tjohnsen@students.waubonsee.edu.

Readers Note: The Shaws mentioned in this story are no relation to Shaw Media.

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